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Tomas Satoransky is ready to embrace his positional versatility like never before

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USA Today

Tomas Satoransky is ready to embrace his positional versatility like never before

As he enters the third season of his NBA career, two things stand out to Tomas Satoransky in his approach to this particular campaign that may differ from years past. 

One is that he has learned by now he is not entitled to or assured of anything when it comes to his role in the Wizards' rotation. The other is that he is ready to fully embrace playing positions other than point guard, a directive the coaches and front office have given him over the past year.

The first lesson was instilled the hard way, through having an inconsistent role the past two seasons. In 2017-18 alone, he went from being the third point guard, to the second point guard, to the replacement starter for John Wall, to watching the team sign multiple point guards as free agents before the playoffs; in which he was essentially replaced by Ty Lawson, who had last played in China.

All of that happened within one season, despite the fact that Satoransky had thrived at times in each spot, including as a starter.

The Wizards' point of view

The Wizards clearly wanted to see more from him last season and he took that to heart.

"That's what these two years have taught me, never be sure of your situation or position," Satoransky told NBC Sports Washington. "On the other hand, I feel very confident now. I also feel confident knowing how things go and how I can be patient when I'm not playing. I still have to work hard, which I do every time. But I feel confident knowing everything and there is a big difference coming into something where you have no idea what's going to happen."

The Wizards explained their decisions to bring in other point guards, a process which also included trading for Tim Frazier last summer and signing Ramon Sessons in March, as not an indication of Satoransky's shortcomings. Instead, they wanted him to develop at other positions and use his athletic 6-foot-7 frame in other ways.

Head coach Scott Brooks even mentioned this after Wednesday's training camp practice.

"Tomas, he is very versatile. He can play a lot of different positions on both ends of the court. We have to use that," Brooks said.

Satoransky's personal versatility

Satoransky has long insisted he is more natural at point guard, where he grew up playing and where he made a name for himself overseas before joining the NBA. The Wizards hoped he would occasionally play shooting guard and small forward, but despite improving his off-ball skills like spot-up three-point shooting, Satoransky never fully got a grasp at either position last season.

This year, Satoransky seems not only more prepared to play at those positions, but perhaps more willing. Not that he wasn't eager to play off the ball, it's that now he seems a bit more thrilled about it.

"With the depth and everything, I'm not trying to focus on one specific position. I'm trying to focus on how I can help other players trying to play good together. With the second group, we can be very, very versatile there. I'm looking forward to it," Satoransky said. 

"I like to play with Jeff [Green] already. I can see that. He's very smart and great at pick-and-rolls and slipping [off of them]. Austin [Rivers], I haven't practiced with him yet, but I know what he can bring to the team. I'm actually excited about that, playing with versatile teammates and being able to play different styles."

The good news

If Satoransky can find a way to succeed with Rivers in particular, that will be great for the Wizards and also Satoransky's future. As the star player turns 27 in October, he is entering a contract year and the biggest threat to his playing time at backup point guard is probably Rivers. If the Wizards decide to tighten their rotation and rely more heavily on Wall and Bradley Beal, Rivers could cut into Satoransky's role, as he can also play point.

The good news is that the Wizards do not have another primary backup point guard on the roster. At this point last year, they had both Satoransky and Frazier. Right now, Satoransky is slotted to be the No. 2 guy.

It's a good situation for him on paper, but Satoransky doesn't count anything as guaranteed.

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Drew Gooden describes playing with LeBron James: It was 'like a traveling rock band'

Drew Gooden describes playing with LeBron James: It was 'like a traveling rock band'

LeBron James and the media circus that comes along with him is coming to Washington, D.C., as the Lakers will face off with the Wizards at Capital One Arena.

Drew Gooden played with James for the better part of four seasons in Cleveland from 2004-08, and so he knows exactly what it's like when one of the NBA's greatest players comes to town. 

"It's only real until you actually see it," Gooden said during Thursday's edition of the Wizards Talk podcast. "We used to joke and call ourselves not the Beatles, but the 'Cleatles,' because it was almost like a traveling rock band. And everybody played their part."

Gooden recounted one particular incident during a day off in Detroit in 2006, when he, James and a couple of their teammates went to a shopping mall to buy some watches.

"When we walked into the shopping mall in Detroit, it was like Michael Jackson had entered the shopping mall," Gooden explained. "Kids were running up, grownups were running up, everybody ran into the store we were in. They had to shut it down with mall security, and wouldn't let anybody in."

"The only thing I was thinking of is like, 'How are we gonna get out of here?' Because we came on our own with no security, so we were just thinking of how we were gonna get out of the mall now. And when I saw that star power of LeBron James back in 2006, this was before he won a championship, I couldn't imagine how it is now, and what he's become in today's game."

James' star power has only grown since then, and many have already declared him the greatest basketball player of all-time.

This label in reference to James is nothing new to Drew Gooden: he heard it when they were both teenagers playing AAU baskeball. 

"Calvin Andrews, who was a sports agent of Carmelo Anthony, Calvin Andrews told me when LeBron was 15 years of age, he said, 'You see that guy right there?'" Gooden recalled. "I said, 'Yeah, what about him?'"

"'He's gonna be the best basketball player ever.'"

"So it's no surprise to me, and this is not new to me, it's just I'm more amazed that it actually happened," Gooden concluded. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, he's gonna be the best ever or he has an opportunity of being the best ever.' But I literally heard a man tell me that in Calvin Andrews, and that guy actually becoming one of the best ever, or the best ever." 

For more on LeBron James and the Lakers' upcoming visit to D.C. to take on the Wizards, listen to the full Wizards Talk podcast below.

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When it comes to Wall vs. Kyrie debate, Stephen A. Smith believes Irving is 'just on another level'

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USA Today

When it comes to Wall vs. Kyrie debate, Stephen A. Smith believes Irving is 'just on another level'

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After the Los Angeles Lakers selected Magic Johnson first overall in the 1979 NBA Draft, only one point guard (Allen Iverson) went No. 1 before the Washington Wizards snagged John Wall in 2010. Kyrie Irving’s selection by the Cleveland Cavaliers the following season turned an anomaly into a trend. A rivalry was born, debates began.

Fan bases and ardent backers made valid points and outlandish claims for their guy and against the other. This continued even after Irving joined the Celtics in 2017 and as physical ailments limited both players.

Entering the latest showdown, the head-to-head count read 8-8. Another thriller ensued. Irving took the win-loss lead from the speedy Wall Wednesday with a magical overtime performance in Boston’s 130-125 win.

For Stephen A. Smith, Irving scoring 38 points including the Celtics’ final 12 didn’t nudge the Boston star ahead of Wall, who wowed with 34 points and 13 assists. It just helped shine a light on a gap that already existed.

“It was a nice matchup. John showed up to play. I thought he played well in the fourth quarter. Over time he got a little bit erratic. That’s to be understood going up against Kyrie. Kyrie is special. Kyrie is something special. He’s just a spectacular player,” the often outspoken ESPN analyst told NBC Sports Washington following the game.

“John Wall reminded you how talented he is,” Smith continued, “but in the process, he also reminded you there are levels to this. Kyrie is just on another level and there is no other way around that.”

That statement joins a list of bold commentary in the long-running Wall-Irving arguments. There are certain dynamics that back up this claim.

Wall racks up assists, but Irving laps him as a shooter. Both players are five-time All-Stars with a single All-NBA selection. Irving’s résumé also includes Olympic Gold for Team USA in 2016 and one of the biggest shots in league history. He sank the series-winning jumper for Cleveland in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. The Wizards, while improved recently compared to franchise norms, have not advanced beyond the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs since Wall's arrival.

“They’re very, very talented. There is no doubt about that,” Smith, who attended Wednesday’s contest, said of the guards.  “But in the same breath, they’re not on the same page. 

"John Wall is a tremendous, tremendous talent. His success is predicated on his ability to get to the basket, his athleticism, his conditioning. He came into this season he was clearly not in ideal shape. He was heavier than he usually is. He’s never really, really truly improved that jump shot.”

Irving’s heroics Wednesday included two 3-pointers in the final minute, one a go-ahead bomb with 17.3 seconds remaining. Wall missed the second of Washington two game-tying attempts from beyond the arc on the next possession.

“When you look at Kyrie Irving, how did he stick the dagger in you? Long 3’s,” Smith said. “Now, John can do that from time to time, but you can’t rely on him to do it. When he makes those shots you say, ‘Thank God.’ When Kyrie makes those shots you say, ‘Yeah, that’s what he’s supposed to do because that’s what he does.’

“A perfect example is that the game is waning, you’re in overtime. (Wizards guard) Bradley Beal misses a 3-pointer. You’re John Wall. You get the ball back. You launch a three when you should have got it back to Bradley Beal because he’s the shooter. That’s not what you do, but that’s what John Wall did. Again, that’s the kind of thing you look at.”

Wall’s primary statistics this season – 21.0 points, 8.5 assists – are worthy of All-Star consideration. His overall game is more under the microscope than usual because of the Wizards’ slow start and his four-year, $170 million contract extension that tips off next season.

“You look at [Wall] as a big-time talent. Somebody who I felt was worthy of his money considering the fact that it’s not like you can go out and get Kevin Durant or somebody like that. In the same breath, you’re looking for him to improve upon the game that he already has, not to bring you back the same old, same old,” Smith said.

“Unfortunately, that’s what you’re seeing right now. You’re seeing a guy who is a big-time talent, who can ball, but who is giving you nothing different or nothing better than what he’s been giving you, and that hasn’t been good enough to get this team to the next level. That’s where you have a problem if you’re the Washington Wizards.”

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